Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When Children Sing ...

When children sing, we need to listen. They are showing us a way to make our world a better place. When their voices join together in song, the sound creates joy and beauty in the world. Since sound is vibration, the children are creating harmony beyond the music itself, and therefore creating a happy vibe in collaboration!

People who attend a children’s choir performance probably only see children having fun and enjoy the experience of listening to them, but research and science prove that the act of singing does much more. When children sing, not only does it improve their musical skills set, but it also provides children with enhanced language-based instruction that simultaneously enhances their speech and reading skills (Moore, 2009).

Music, and particularly singing, stimulates the cerebellum and aids in auditory processing of words (Callan, Kawato, Parsons & Turner, 2007). Through Functional imaging, Callan et al. showed that children with language learning impairment who receive musical training improved their language skills and increased their auditory processing abilities. This discovery could have great implication for children with dyslexia because it has been argued that cerebellar deficits are factors in this language learning impairment. If these deficits can be improved through singing, then music is a door that opens the world to a population that struggles to learn how to read and write.

Even if a person dismisses that fact that singing and music is stimulating a child’s brain, there are other HUGE benefits. Well-crafted lyrics expose a child to a new subject or culture, or the lyrics invite the exploration of history. Songs teach vocabulary and when combined with the emotional expression from musical harmonies and melodies, children learn the deeper subtleties of meanings and how to use vocabulary correctly. The repetition of songs improves pronunciation, reinforces the innate understanding of inflection, language patterns and sentence formation. It is a heightened form of speech therapy that is enjoyable to the child … especially when the melodies, rhythms and harmonies are fun to sing.

As a composer who writes children’s songs, it is my responsibility and *joy* to create songs that attempt to enhance what children’s voices do best and to pick appropriate subject matters to sing about. The only way I know when I am successful is when an artistic or choral director chooses my work for their choir to sing.

This happened yesterday when I received an email from Gina Lupini, the director of Vivace! in Archbald, Pennsylvania, requesting permission to buy/license copies of “When I Go Fishin’” for her choir. It was a delightful exchange and in the process of our correspondence, I discovered an amazingly talented woman who is doing amazingly talented things with amazingly talented children.

What Ms. Lupini is doing is delivering first-class arts-based instruction that is fostering creativity and enhancing literacy instruction. Not only is she making great music, but she is transforming her rehearsals and performances into positive learning environments that help every child in her chorus gain academic, social and emotional skills for success in later life—the kind of success that Paquette and Reig (2008) describe in their recent article about literacy and music. Successful children’s choruses happen because a choral director creates an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect between chorus members, the director and the accompanist.

Here is a little of the bio she sent when I asked her if I could write something about her group:

"Vivace! is an auditioned treble choir of sixty-five seventh through twelfth grade students from the Valley View School District. Since 2004, the choir has attended the Music in the Parks and Music Showcase Festivals and has consistently achieved excellent and superior ratings. In May 2010, the group achieved Music Showcase Festival's most distinguished honor, Grand Champion. The award is given to the highest scoring ensemble from all of the festivals held at the location in which they attended. In recent years Vivace! has performed at the Lackawanna County Health Care Center, The Laurels Assisted Living Facility, the Gino Merli Veteran’s Center, PNC Stadium and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

In April 2010, Vivace! traveled to Pittsburgh to perform at the Pennsylvania Music Educator’s (PMEA) annual conference. PMEA’s mission is to advance music education by encouraging excellence in the study, teaching and making of music. Vivace! was one of 140 ensembles throughout the Commonwealth who applied to perform and are one of only thirty selected to perform at the three day convention.
In June 2011, the choir will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to participate in the Queen City Children's Choir Festival. In 2009, they participated in the same festival and were one of five choirs throughout the United States who worked directly with international composer Jim Papoulis and the American Choral Director's Association's National Chair of Children's Choirs and director of the Cincinnati Children's Choir, Robyn Reeves Lana.

The group released its first CD in April 2009 and their second CD (The Spirit of Christmas, recorded at St. Peter's Cathedral) is on sale now. Vivace! is under the direction of Gina Lupini and accompanied by Michael O'Malley."

When children sing, they are doing something important for themselves and for their world. They really are making a difference!

So … Sing, children! Sing!

Callan, D. E., Kawato, M., Parsons, L., & Turner, R. (2007). Speech and song: The role of the cerebellum. Cerebellum, 6(4), 321-327. doi:10.1080/14734220601187733

Moore, P. (2009). Singing Forges a Link Between Music and Language. Teaching Music, 17(2), 57. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Paquette, K., & Rieg, S. (2008). Using Music to Support the Literacy Development of Young English Language Learners. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(3), 227-232. doi:10.1007/s10643-008-0277-9

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